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Flying into the Future Part 2: Southwest ALB-BWI-ALB

Tue Dec 17, 2019 4:13 pm

Background: Flying into the Future
During my senior year of college I am also applying to medical school. While the majority of the schools that I am applying to are within driving distance of my college in Albany, NY, 9 of them are far enough away that I would have to fly. The trip reports for this series will cover these schools. The number of trip reports that I write for this series will ultimately be variable based on how many of these further away interviews I attend and also based on how much time I have to put out these TR's. As always, feedback is appreciated, and the results of the interview will be posted in the comments once I find out. This second trip report covers my second interview, which was at George Washington University in Washington, DC. This interview marked the first of three that I would be doing in the span of a week.
Also, I apologize if this report might be slightly less detailed than my normal reports-- the original copy of this ended up getting deleting so I am having to write it for the second time.

After getting my interview invite at the end of September, I immediately began to plan for my mid-November trip to DC. Using Orbitz, I looked at nonstop flights to DCA on AA and IAD on UA. While they would have been great for getting me to DC, the timings on the return flight would have been such that I would have had to bolt from my interview and have zero margin of error for making the 17:00 flight, or sit at the airport for 7-8 hours to wait until the 23:00 return. I then turned to WN, where I found that the timings on their ALB-BWI flights were perfect for my needs (they had a mid-day departure to take me to DC and a 19:15 departure to take me back). I also saw that I could easily afford the ticket with my Rapid Rewards points, which was an added bonus because I need to start burning them before WN terminates the BOS-MKE flight.

WN 498

Online Check In
Luckily, I timed my research project just right, so that I was finishing up as WN opened up the online check in for my flight. I pushed check in on the app exactly 20 seconds after it opened and was rewarded with B22, though I did not receive TSA Precheck, which I was surprised by because normally when I fly with WN I get precheck. After checking in, I then downloaded my electronic boarding pass to my phone.

At the Airport
I arrived at the airport at approximately 11:50, 1.5 hours before my flight was scheduled for departure. After finding a place to dump my water I went to enter the security line. They had someone checking tickets as people entered the normal security cue, which was something that I was definitely not expecting. In usual fashion for my ancient iPhone 6S, it started bugging as I rushed to load up my boarding pass, so I had to let people pass by me while I fiddled with it to close out all the messages and get the boarding pass up. Once I was finally able to get it working, I was directed into the line that I expected to be in. As I waited in line for security screening, I was able to watch one of the therapy dogs that works at ALB go through the metal detector. While the dog made it through security just fine, the TSA screener manning the bag X-ray was pulling multiple bags for additional scrutiny, with my backpack being one of them. After giving my cold-cut and cheese sandwich a visual inspection I was cleared and in the terminal within 15 minutes of approaching the security line.

Once through security I went and walked around the terminal and planespotted a little.

Image DL CRJ9 with AA B737 in the background

Image WN B737 in the old livery

Once I finished my walk I went back to gate C2 and sat down to eat my secure sandwich.

Image Cute sayings on the WN bag carts


Image Helicopter landing

At 12:53, N424WN, the 17.7 year old B737 that would take me down to BWI pulled into the gate approximately 8 minutes late.

Image My aircraft pulling into the gate as another WN bird takes flight

Once the aircraft was in the gate and disembarkation was complete, the gate agent announced that they were just changing out crews and then would begin boarding as soon as they were finished. As they started to do the standard explanation of the WN boarding process, multiple WN announcements started to play at the same time, making it hard to figure out what was being said. That being said, I was able to clearly understand the announcement that the flight was going to be totally full.

At 13:05, boarding began with the gate agent ushering an army of preboarders onto the plane. About 9 minutes later I stepped into the gate to begin boarding the plane.

Somehow, I was able to get one of the last window seats in the very back of the plane. Due to how crowded the plane was I was unable to get a good picture of my seat, but it looks the same as the image that I took on my return flight. The seat was comfortable and provided a good amount of leg room. As boarding continued, I was able to watch the classic person trying to cram an overstuffed bag into the overhead bins, before a flight attendant finally intervened and directed the passenger to try putting the bag in a bin that was further forward (where the bins were taller and able to fit the passenger's bag).

At 13:27, the captain made his announcement and the doors were closed. Despite the full flight announcement, the middle seat next to me was empty. Within 2 minutes of the door closing we began to push back from the gate followed by the standard safety briefing.

After a short taxi we proceeded to line up on runway 19. After a short time spent just sitting on the runway, we pulled off and began a long taxi before sitting for a few minutes. Eventually, the flight crew announced that we were originally cleared for departure on runway 19, but at the last minute they had to close it for a maintenance issue, and that we would be taking off in a few minutes.

Image B6

Image View from runway 19 as we sat waiting for takeoff

Image AA CRJ2

Image Landing regional jet

At 13:54, one of the flight attendants announced "alright, here we go", which was followed a few minutes later by a smooth takeoff that took us into a cloudy sky. As we climbed through the clouds we encountered a few minor bumps.

Image Distant view of the Catskills

At 13:59 the FA made her announcement and reminded people to use their headphones during this short flight to BWI.

Image Beautiful looking clouds.

Immediately after her announcement the FA's leapt into service and began the beverage service. I then proceeded to switch on the WN WiFi and explore their selection. After seeing that there was nothing good on TV, I selected their Top 40 stream and began to look out the window and look at the moving map. After a little bit, we reached our cruising altitude of 28,000 feet, though our cruising speed seemed a little slow (less than 400 MPH). I also thought that our flight route seemed a little odd (we went Southeast into Connecticut before turning Southwest towards BWI).

Image Our flight route

While I passed on a beverage, at 14:18 I did accept a package of pretzels as a little snack.

Image The WN pretzels

About 10 minutes after I received my pretzels, the FA announced that we would be arriving into gate A6 and that we should check the WN app for connections. Two minutes later the captain announced that we would be landing in 25 minutes and then provided us with the destination weather. Throughout the flight, the captain left the seat belt sign on, which is not surprising due to how short the flight was.

As we descended, it got fairly bumpy.


Image First view of the Chesapeake Bay

At 14:42, our final approach was announced.

Image MD countryside

Image General aviation airport (I'm not sure which one)

Image Ocean front real estate

Image That's a lot of docks in the water for November

At 14:56 we executed a typically bumpy WN landing into BWI.

Image WN B738 in the old livery. I didn't think that any of the B738's had the old livery.

At 15:01, we pulled into gate A6, approximately 27 minutes late.

Image One last view of N424WN

After a brief pit-stop, by 15:12 I was out the door and waiting for the bus to the rental car facility. After what felt like an incredibly long ride, I picked up my rental car and proceeded to get stuck in traffic that I probably would have missed if the flight was on time.

Overall Weighed Score

WN 173

Online Check In
Due to my later than expected arrival at my AirBnB in DC, I ended up being out for a walk when the WN online check in window opened. Because of this, I ended up checking in just under an hour late, and earned myself position B48.

At the Airport
After a frustratingly stressful morning (the free parking at my AirBnB was not as free as advertised...), followed by a smooth afternoon filled with interviews, I dropped my car off at the rental car drop off point. After dropping my car off, I hopped onto the free shuttle, which still had pre-recorded advertisements saying that WOW Air was servicing BWI. At 17:47, the shuttle dropped me off at the airport and I proceeded directly to the bathroom so that I could change out of my suit and dump my water bottle. As I walked to the bathroom I passed the extremely long check in lines, which made me glad that I was flying with just a carry-on. Once I arrived at the bathroom, I realized that I had left all my coat hangers in the closet at my AirBnB, so I would have to wear my suit for the flight back.

Once done in the bathroom I headed to security, whose short line only took me about 10 minutes to get through. Of course, the TSA agent decided that not only did I have to take my suit coat (which lacked any metal) off to go through the scanner, but that he also had to smush it down into the bin, wrinkling it for my next interviews.

Once done with security I went and walked around the WN terminals. Lots of gate changes were occurring, and these changes included my flight back to ALB. I didn't take any photos from my walk because my iPhone 6S does not handle night photography well.

After my walk I went to the departure gate, C9, and pulled out my laptop to draft up my interview thank you notes and contact my AirBnB host to deal with the parking issue. For reasons that are not clear to me, my laptop did not like the WiFi at the airport, so I ended up using my phone to message her.

At 18:44, N732SW, the 20.5 year old B737 that would be returning me to ALB pulled into the gate 17 minutes late.

Image An image of N732SW from the Anet database

Approximately 15 minutes later, boarding began. As I lined up to join the B group, someone tried to be funny by making a joke (I forget what it was). He succeeded. Right in front of me in the line was a newly hired WN baggage handler who was extremely cheerful and chatty. Around 19:15, I boarded the aircraft.

Somehow, I was able to snag the very last window seat in the last row of the plane, as the baggage handler in front of me decided to sit with some old family friends to catch up with them. To augment my luck, I ended up having an empty middle seat next to me. The seat was comfortable, well padded, and had a good amount of leg room.

Image The WN seat.

At 19:21 the captain announced that we would have a 53 minute flight time and then gave the weather in ALB. This was immediately followed by the FA announcement. The FA made it fun by singing a little bit of it.

At 19:24 the boarding door was closed and 2 minutes later we began to push back. As we pushed back, the engines came to life with a smokey start. Somewhere in this sequence the FA's gave their safety briefing. We then proceeded to taxi to the active runway, and at 19:31 cleared for departure was announced. The flight attendants then proceeded to lower the lights.While they lowered the lights, one of them sang a lullaby.

Shortly after this announcement we made a smooth takeoff into the unremarkable skies over BWI. At 19:38, the FA made a standard announcement. After their announcement, I selected an episode of Beat Bobby Flay from the WN in flight entertainment. As I watched, the FAs ran a complete beverage service (which I passed on) and distributed pretzels (which I ate). During my episode we reached our cruising altitude of 23,000 feet and flew through a few bumps as we crossed over Southern NJ.

At 20:05 we began our descent as I finished up my episode of Beat Bobby Flay. As we started our descent, I noticed that we ended up doing a little zig-zag as we flew over NJ.


At 20:10, the captain announced that we would be arriving into gate C2. As we descended, I watched a plane cross underneath us. It was during descent when I thought I noticed that we actually had 4 flight attendants working the flight, instead of the normal 3.

At 20:16 final descent was called and we encountered a few bumps on descent. At 20:27 we performed a moderately firm, and just barely bumpy landing at ALB. By 20:30 we were in the gate and beginning to disembark. Despite our 10 minute delay in leaving BWI, we still arrived into ALB right on time. As disembarkation began, the lead FA announced "everyone else, you know the routine, get out".

After waiting for everyone else to disembark the plane, I got off and proceeded directly to the long term parking lot, where in the last frustration of the day, I found out that my favorite Chinese takeout had closed and I would not be able to get food from them.

Overall Weighed Score

I have always found WN to be one of my favorite US domestic carriers, and this trip proved to be no different. They got me where I needed to be and they provided a good level of service

Logbook and Previous Trip Reports

This chart, offers a comparison of all the short haul flights that I have taken.

Flying into the Future Part 1: Delta ALB-DTW, American DTW-PHL-ALB
Onwards and Upwards Part 2: Air Canada TLV-YUL-BOS
Onwards and Upwards Part 1: Swiss and El Al BOS-ZRH-TLV

The Milwaukee Way WN BOS-MKE-BOS
Porting it to and from Toronto
Southwest to Milwaukee and Back (with a surprise)
Air France, CSA Czech Air, and Alitalia to Prague, Bratislava, and Budapest

From my Archives: Summer '16 rescheduled and delayed with Iberia, Vueling, and British Airways

From my Archives Summer '15 Shuttle America: Do they actually meet Delta's Standards?

From my Archives: Summer '14 Returning from Israel One of the Only Ways Available El Al
From my Archives: Summer '14 Outward bound to Poland and Israel with LH
From my Archives: Winter '14 From Sunny Spain to Snowy Boston, KLM and Delta to Boston

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